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Opening Bell: 7.28.08

KKR Private Equity Investors and KKR & Co. Agree to Business Combination
KKR plans to go public on the NYSE. It won't be doing an IPO however. Instead it will be merging with some Dutch affiliate listed in Amsterday, and it will then relist on the NYSE under the ticker "KKR". Perfect. Said the company's two founders in the release: "This transaction offers substantial benefits for KPE unitholders, and it builds KKR for the long-term. Going forward, KPE unitholders will benefit by being owners in a diversified asset management business that generates regular distributions of cash earnings." Anyway, no doubt we'll have a lot more to say about it today. One nice things: because there's no IPO, perhaps the listing won't be quite the media circus as the last time a major PE firm went public.
McCain Says Wall Street `Villain' in Subprime Crisis (Bloomberg)
This will be news to everyone except the six people that watch ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning program. Apparently John McCain used the word "villain" describe Wall St. when discussing the subprime mortgage mess. It sound like he favor prosecution, not mention the elimination of pay for certain Wall St. practitioners. We're not even going to bother.
Ryanair warns of loss next year (BBC)
RyanAir better get its "beds & blowjobs" cabin class onto market stat! The Irish discount carrier, famous for selling some flights at 1 EUR (but then tacking on all kinds of ancillaries, like getting to use the jetway to get on the plane, and getting to check luggage), posted a sharp drop in earnings and wared it could incur its first annual loss. The cuplrit needs no introduction. It's oil.
National gas prices dip below $4 a gallon (AP)
This explains that collective sigh of relief we've been hearing. National gas prices averaged $3.996 on Friday, which means if you're filling up a big 25 gallon tank, it costs less than $100, which is pretty cool. Prices are at their lowest leve since May 16th.

Worried Banks Sharply Reduce Business Loans (NYT)
This is one of those article they write every six months in some publication. It's about how the next shoe to drop is small business loans, and then they find a few businesses that couldn't get their bridge financing while their factory is getting completed, or something like that. Not that there hasn't been some decline, at least according to the article: collectively, commercial paper and commercial loans fell 3 percent over the last year to $3.27 trillion.
'Dark Knight' Sets Record With $300 Million in 10 Days (WSJ)
It was great that Dark Knight did such a smashup job on opening weekend, but now its heading into a new territory altogether. Now it's in league with films like T2, Fried Green Tomatoes, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and maybe even Titanic (we'll see)... films that just rake in cash for awhile to come. Judging by the buzz and the near-universal acclaim of this thing, we wouldn't be at all surprised to churn out several more good weeks before its star fades. The key is getting those repeat attendees.
Should Gasoline Taxes Be Raised or Lowered? Posner's Comment (Becker-Posner)
This post by Richard Posner is about a week old, but we finally noticed in percolating around the blogosphere this weekend. And besides, inasmuch as the key issue is high gas prices, it's not exactly irrelevant. Anyway, an interesting issue is raised, as to whether SUV owners are too eager to drop their vehicles for something lighter with better MPGs. Basically: are they wasting money by doing something drastic, rather than huffing it out a few more years with their SUVs. It's probably different for different people, but something interesting to think about.
Hostile bids at their highest since 1999 (FT)
It's a good time to not be doing badly. Hostile takeovers are at their highest rate since 1999 (not exactly going to deep into history, we realize), as strong companies pick of their weak counterparts on the cheap. It probably helps that private equity has been neutered to some extent, thus eliminating the PE premium that every company's been trading with for some time.